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NBA Finals: Young coaches take parallel paths to the finals

The Heat's Erik Spoelstra or Thunder's Scott Brooks will soon join an elite company of title-winning coaches
BY ANTHONY SLATER, Staff Writer, Published: June 11, 2012

But their recent career paths have paralleled each other.

Four years ago, both were handed a struggling franchise. Brooks was given a young and unsuccessful bunch in its Oklahoma City infancy. Spoelstra was handed the post-Shaq era Pat Riley leftovers, with Dwyane Wade and 14 role players.

Soon after, fortunes changed.

Oklahoma City slowly turned into a juggernaut, organically growing through great drafts, smart trades and player development.

“(Scott's) done a terrific job,” Spoelstra said. “The franchise has been really committed to their vision … You can tell that they have a philosophy and a culture that everybody has bought into, and it's not a coincidence that they've been able to build this thing up quickly. Scott has been a big part of that in terms of the culture and the philosophy and how hard they play.”

Conversely but just as effective, Miami delivered Spoelstra a title contender overnight, snatching LeBron, Wade and Bosh in an all-in-one championship-level trio.

From there, Spoelstra stressed defense, managed stars and delivered two straight Finals appearances.

“I have a lot of respect (for Erik),” Brooks said. “He has a great team, and we also have a great team, but I have a lot of respect for what he does and the preparation that it takes to be a coach in this league … He's done a great job.”

Both are young. Both are highly criticized. Both are occasionally viewed as lucky for ideal situations some think they fell in.

But both are in the NBA Finals. And one will be a champion.

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